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Scalable Fiber Ethernet WAN Bandwidth
With high bandwidth over fiber optic connections, you can discover performance and cost advantages with fiber Ethernet

By: John Shepler

Large businesses and other larger organizations generally require more bandwidth than is available through T1 lines or other broadband services that can be provisioned over copper twisted pair. Fiber optic connections can provide nearly unlimited bandwidth, but what is the most cost effective service?

Fiber Optic Services
If you are a current user of fiber optic bandwidth, you are probably leasing a SONET/SDH service such as OC3, OC12, or OC48 for your wide area networking needs. These are traditional telecom services that were originally developed for the telephone companies to carry large numbers of telephone calls. They are circuit switched channelized networks that have been adapted to transport today’s demand for high data bandwidth connections.

A newer service that is offering serious competition to the legacy telco services is Ethernet over Fiber or EoF. It’s a packet-switched network that transports Ethernet at the layer 2 switching or layer 3 routing level. Within metropolitan areas, this service is known as Metro Ethernet. Over long distances, it is called Carrier Ethernet or Long Haul Ethernet. Just about all bandwidths are available, but generally you’ll find fiber Ethernet being used to carry 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet, 1 Gbps Gigabit Ethernet, 10 Gbps 10 GigE. Even high bandwidths, including 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps, are used for carrier backbone networks.

Ethernet is Scalable
One advantage of fiber Ethernet is that it is scalable. You may start out with 100 Mbps service but quickly find out that you need more bandwidth. With traditional SONET services, there can be long delays in upgrading your service to the next level. There may also be a big jump in bandwidth and cost to get to that next level. OC3 gives you 155 Mbps. But OC12, the next readily available increment, runs at 622 Mbps.

Fiber optic Ethernet can easily scale up to the limit of the installed port. For instance, if you have a port that is capable of 1,000 Mbps, you don’t necessarily have to buy that much bandwidth. It’s common to order a fraction of the port’s capability, say 100 Mbps and then upgrade to 200 Mbps when demand justifies such a move. Often this can be done with only a phone call to your Ethernet service provider. Only when your demand exceed the 1,000 Mbps capacity of the port will new equipment need to be installed.

Ethernet Offers Cost Savings
Perhaps the biggest advantage of fiber Ethernet services is cost savings. In additional to the traditional telephone companies, there are numerous competitive carriers that have their own regional or nationwide fiber optic networks and points of presence. These carriers can build-out a fiber connection to your building. It may not be that expensive if you can guarantee a high enough bandwidth level to justify the construction. You’ll find the monthly lease rate attractive, too. They are often only a fraction of what you’d pay for equivalent OCx services.

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